Observations on Traveling with Kids

27 July Csehy 8 {empty cups = amazing for a 10 month old! And yes, United served us stroopwaffles!}

Since S was born, we’ve taken two US road trips (+ lots of 5 hour trips), flown internationally 3 times (round trip), and numerous times in the US. About half of that has been since Ellie was born… and I don’t think I could do both kids by myself very well. Just S and I was not too challenging for me most of the time (but, much of the solo air travel I did was in Japan, where it’s much easier to go to the bathroom with a baby in tow because they have infant seats in some stalls).

I feel like all ages have their challenges, but we have found that some are easier than others:
Before 3 months, they really are just along for the ride! You do have to stop more frequently for feeds and diaper changes, and pack more clothes for them, but they don’t need a lot.
Then we found that 3-4 months was hard in the car, because they wanted to be entertained but couldn’t do it themselves. But, they’re not eating solids yet and don’t nurse and fill their diapers quite so much so you can drive longer stretches and don’t have to pack as much for them.
4 months – mobile seems to be a sweet spot for traveling with babies. At that age ours have been content to sit and play in the car seat or on a lap for longer periods of time, they’re going longer between feeds and eating some solid food but not relying on you having packed food for them, and they’re not going through as many clothes from spit up and diaper leaks.
I feel like the most difficult age is when they can crawl and are learning to walk – they’re not content to sit on your lap, are less easily entertained (though there’s still a lot to be said for a cup!), need solid food, and don’t sleep as comfortably in a carrier or stroller, but aren’t flexible to skip naps like an older toddler is.
Then it’s been easier again in our experience, especially once they turn two and need their own seat on the airplane (but then they definitely need you to pack food and things for them to do!).

Packing:
We try to travel as light as possible, which never looks like it sounds with 2 kids, since that still includes 2 car seats, a stroller (or two), a peapod (better than a pack n play for travel!), plus clothes, toys, books, etc.
S gets her own backpack and it’s usually filled with books (usually a week before we travel I hide what I’m going to pack so it’s “new”, and try to pick books that entertain her for a long time), stickers (we love Melissa & Doug’s puffy sticker sets), and a paint with water book, plus a few small toys like cars.
Ellie is pretty entertained by non-toy items like magazines, cups, etc. but we always pack her bolli, rings, and a few books.

I organize my suitcase differently depending on the length of the trip:
for short trips (2-5 days), I pack an outfit for each person for each day and throw in a few extras at the bottom. It’s arranged by day, with each stack having an outfit for me and each of the girls.
for long trips (5+ days), I pack each person’s clothes in a separate section of the suitcase and pull outfits together each day, since on longer trips we take most of our clothes anyway.

Travel days:
If we’re leaving early in the morning, we make overnight oats to eat on our way out the door and try to have the car packed as much as possible.
I plan what I wear pretty carefully, since with all the ups and downs and ins and outs, lifting, reaching, bending, nursing, etc. I want something comfortable easy to nurse in but also modest, so I usually end up wearing a longer nursing tank and then a higher-necked shirt on top, with jeans and shoes that come on and off easily.

Food
We generally pack our own meals for the airplane, but don’t usually get more creative than sandwiches. I pack pouches and larabars for snacks and sometimes try to make something else… but this is an area I really want to grow in!
We do love our beeswrap for packing sandwiches, and have some stainless steel containers that we use for other snacks.

Do you have any travel tips or hacks? What are your go-to travel foods?

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August

Started August in NYC… doing not-so-crowded things since I didn’t have much interest in Times Square and wanted to avoid crowds with the girls. My first time in NYC was 14 years ago and it was awful… So I’m thankful for the chance to make happy NYC memories (traffic and parking ticket aside), but even more it was great to watch the girls have so much happy cousin time and get to celebrate Cait’s birthday WITH her for the first time in a long time.
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Carnegie Hall

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We spent a while watching the fountain at the Lincoln Center and being overwhelmed and excited by how much talent walks through that place!

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Then it was to MI for my friend Hannah’s wedding. I did not take many photos since I was trying to enjoy every moment.
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Except here. I pulled my phone out to take a photo of one of the most moving parts of the day.
From Instagram:
She’s been with me for Celtic festivals, road trips (& my first car accident), desert camping, serving in childcare and leading small groups, Irish & country dancing, music and sewing, exploring Israel, visited us in San Diego and Japan (and was the most wonderful doula ever for Ellie’s birth)… she’s shot me in the eye in a nerf war and been asked if she’s my sister more times than my sisters and I have been put together (and we’ve accidentally twinned so many times)… I kept thinking of Revelation 19 yesterday, watching Hannah clothe herself in fine clothes, but knowing her radiance is so much more than her physical beauty, lying in her character & the way she follows Christ. I’ve never seen her as happy as she was yesterday.
I don’t think I have ever “meant” the benediction as much as I did while singing it last night, after watching her exchange vows & embark on marriage, thinking of the joys, sorrows, and struggles Ezra & I have experienced and that she now gets to taste of as well, but also having so deeply worshiped our Savior in the ceremony, knowing He is able to bless & keep them & give them peace.

And my involvement with the wedding would not have been possible without Ezra tirelessly caring for the girls for large parts of 3 days!

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Since I lived in MI for a while as a kid, I still have friends there, like Anna! We enjoyed shawarma in a cheesebread, some playground time for the girls, and then joined my family for church.

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And since Hannah went to Csehy, it was also a great time with lots of Csehy friends who were in town for the wedding.

But we also spent some time doing things in Michigan we had loved doing when we were growing up (like eating lots of Lebanese food!) – the biggest thing there was going to Greenfield Village.
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Ezra coming out of Robert Frost’s house. We had a sleeping toddler in the stroller so were taking turns going in and out of houses or pushing the stroller.

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Trying on hats in the millinery was always one of our favorite things, as was the carousel – it was the first time either of our girls had been on one, and they both enjoyed it (even though S was sad to not get the frog).

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On our way home… Ellie’s favorite book fell apart.

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The girls charmed a pilot flying standby while we were waiting for our second flight and he gave S wings – not cheap plastic ones but a real pin. Made my day!

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update on the beeswrap: we love it! I just did some maintenance on them as they had lots of cracks, but it only took a few minutes of ironing between parchment paper and they’re as good as new. They are great for traveling with and eliminated the need for plastic sandwich bags on our trip. We mostly use them for sandwiches and baked goods, but have occasionally used them for veggies or other snacks.

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Paid way too much for strawberries at the Farmers’ Market (but they were local and organic!) – and topped them with some cream.
It is overwhelming to go to the Farmer’s Market and see all the local, organic food we could be buying and then feel guilty we don’t. So instead of trying to do it all we decided to focus on ONE thing for now and make that happen as much as possible, and that’s these pastured eggs from down the road from church… That somehow are cheaper than the organic grocery store eggs.

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Free, organic blackberries. YUM.

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We’d been reading Blueberries for Sal so S had to have her little tin pail… thankfully I had one. And she did a better job than Sal picking and not eating them all!

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One of the most unique trees I have ever seen. Pinecones, swoops like a cedar, but prickly like a cactus.

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Hiking for my birthday!
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A really beautiful trail, and also the longest we’ve done with kids – 3.5 miles.
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“playing” hiking in our backyard.

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birthday flowers from Ezra – along with serrated knives that work for lefties and some handlettering he did.

favorite recipes// banana tahini popsicles // sweet potato lentil soup // turkey apple sausage patties // blackberry ricotta pizza with basil (needs some lemon zest! More blackberry recipes coming later) // 30 minute posole // chicken salad // healthier cake // loosely followed this recipe for carrot cake ice cream – just added the syrup part to our usual vanilla, and blended it // baklava pull apart bread (halved the sweetener!) // cookie dough hummus (would add more oats and cashews) // whole wheat muffins (left out the honey) // crockpot refried beans //

and lest you think every recipe works, here are some that weren’t as great as expected: indian bread with zucchini (not bad, but just a basic flat bread with zucchini in it) // oatmeal cookie ice cream sandwiches (fantastic idea, but the cookies didn’t work for me!) // chocolate chip cookies (these were like cake) // 2 ingredient chocolate frosting (even very cold this was like pudding)

best of online//  Yazidi women freed from ISIS // 6 ways to raise a sex addict // biblical womanhood doesn’t begin and end in Proverbs 31 // reflections on the 50th anniversary of Joni’s diving accident (and more from Joni) // breathtaking arrangement of Fairest Lord Jesus // the need for rural ministry // missionary mommy wars // why “did you have fun?” is the wrong question // spectacular clouds // you don’t have to love your postpartum body // 5 Strategies for a Christ-Centered Home // ultimate guide to homeschooling styles // stuck in the middle of unresolved suffering: part 1 & part 2 // how to love your friends of color well // 11 Beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses you should know about // witnessing Yemen’s desperate suffering // Trio Mediaeval – the Little Child // How to Care for Parents of Prodigals // photography posing tips // the perfect body size // I updated this resource page // narratio // global buckets – a neat way of growing things and a neat mission! // how to use your whisk the right way // giving up the confederacy
reading of late// skimmed Charlotte Mason’s Home Education // Pursuit of God (Tozer) // Roaring Lambs (Briner) // Pride & Prejudice (Austen)

thinking about// in my recent reading of the psalms I have been struck again and again with the theme of publicly praising God for what He has done. So here’s for today, a day started with exhaustion and too much to do, and I knew I was going to bite off everyone’s head unless something changed. It was a constant all-day running to Him and teetering on the edge… But even with Ezra working evenings we made it with His protection. Not perfectly but without snapping. God is good!
Psalm 71:3, Be to me a rock of habitation to which I may continually come.

The Munchkins// how are they growing so fast? Ellie is standing and saying a few words; S is starting to play pretend and invite us along.

Things to do with a Toddler

{I wrote up this list to help me think of things to do with S so we don’t get bored at home. Some of it is simple, some of it takes more planning, but it’s all things we’ve done or hope to do!}

Routinely: (loosely based on this)
library x1 week
walks – daily
Playground, at least 1x/week
reading around 20 min/day – usually involves some Bible, Spanish, and poetry.
singing our hymn of the month
involving her in chores/cooking (I need to be better about this! Usually it’s just giving her a rag while I clean the bathrooms or the broom after I sweep, etc. In the kitchen she does the salad spinner and sets the table)
Working on habits & character (mostly means not filling the day so much we don’t have time to stop and work on this!)

Outdoors:
chalk
hunt for bugs
identify trees, birds, flowers (we have an Audubon Pacific Northwest field guide)
hike
go to the beach
picnic (even in the back yard!)
water play/water table/water painting

Crafts:
paint (you can even make it yourself! This one is our favorite so far. This one has ideas for food-based dyes).
pinwheels
paper houses
instruments
Face paint
corn husk dolls
pipe cleaners & beads (we have a crown to make soon!)
salt dough
paper bag puppets or masks
decorate what you bring in from outdoors
slime
stamp with potatoes, apples, etc.
A whole list of “recipes for play!”

Inside:
build a fort
blow bubbles
playdough
put on music and dance! (we do this often if it’s too rainy to walk!)
put on music and add to it with your instruments (or pots and pans! If you want some ideas for music to listen to and what to point out about it, look at this)
play a game (S loves to play a matching game my Aunt got us and likes to play with Qwirkle pieces)
sensory bins (if your kid is into this. S could care less, but I’m sure we’ll do some with Ellie as she is so into feeling things)
independent quiet play – some ideas here. 

Cooking together:
popsicles
bread/biscuits
ice cream

With books:
make a food mentioned
do an activity mentioned
learn about the setting
(more ideas/details about this kind of thing in this post about Five in a Row here)

Serve others:
take a meal to new neighbors, someone with a new baby, etc.
bake cookies to meet your neighbors
Look for opportunities to volunteer at things your toddler can come along for
Walk for a fundraiser
Sort toys/clothes and choose some to donate

What do you like to do with your toddler?

6 Months of Change

August 20th we sat in church after having been away from our congregation for a month. I was playing piano that week, and Ezra was preaching, so after a quick switch I sat with Ellie on my lap and S beside me. They were both surprisingly content and not their usual wiggly selves, so I was able to focus a lot more on the sermon.

As I sat there, I was struck with how much change there has been in the last six months. It’s probably been our calmest six months since we’ve been married: no newlywed paperwork, no moves, no babies, no time apart. On the surface, our family looks the same (as same as it can look when you have 2 young kids who change every day!). But under the surface I at least am so different. I also realized this while we took family photos earlier in August – in December when we had taken some, they felt fake to me because I felt like we were not in the best of places due to Ezra’s schedule in Japan and PPD… I knew we had a lot of growing to do and sometimes the smile hid the PPD in a way I didn’t like.

To be able to focus at all during church is a huge change, and then to be able to do so and tend to the girls at the same time is even bigger of a deal. So is having the time and energy to practice piano during the week so I can play at church once a month. And having the social energy to want to stay and chat after the service instead of wanting to retreat back home. A lot of that is due to my PPD being healed, but some of it is from other areas of growth.

And then at home, to not feel stressed all the time, to enjoy the girls – not just enjoying S and enjoying Ellie, but even enjoying having TWO kids, to be able to do the dishes and chores and the focus to put things away all the way… a lot of it seems really silly to write out but the lack of motivation to do those things was one of the last parts of PPD to go.
Our marriage has been through a lot of healing and change, with things I had pushed aside since they were “normal” in our circumstances finally being worked through so that we could grow through them (and are still growing).

I never wrote it down anywhere, but at the beginning of 2017 I prayed that it would be a year of healing and rest, and it really has been so far (though the rest part is still hard! I love to go-go-go and have to restrain myself a lot to not put too much on my plate, and still often end up doing so).

All that to say – life and I are still not perfect, but I am constantly praising God for how He has been at work. In January, before things began to change, and even in mid-February, when change had started, I would not have been able to guess that August would be so drastically different.

21 DSD: Afterwards

I thought I should post a little update for those who followed my 21DSD, as it left my digestive issues unresolved. Thankfully, they are resolved now but it took until early July to get to the bottom of it all!
That month and a half was very stressful as we tried to figure out what was going on – tracking food, cutting out so many different items, going to the doctor and then dietitian… it was not good for my relationship with food to analyze everything I ate so much.

After showing my mom (a dietitian) a few days’ food log she suggested that maybe it was too much fiber, and my visit to the dietitian locally confirmed that that might be the case, although it was hard to figure out where all that fiber was coming from since I hadn’t been eating beans or grains for the most part.
That led to me starting an even more detailed food log – not just what I ate but weighing and measuring everything as well as I was able, which added more stress, especially when I got my fiber into the normal range and I was still having trouble… until we realized that I hadn’t been including cocoa powder in my logs and that has 2 grams/tbsp, which really adds up when you put 2 Tbsp in a smoothie!
So we finally got it under control (avocados were also a surprise in how much fiber they have), but by then I had been eating a lot more refined food since it’s lower in fiber and then we were on vacation… so now I’m trying to reset again: but not by anything drastic, just really focusing on listening to my body for fullness and eating all the food groups, as unrefined as possible.

Lessons learned:
– Detailed food logs are not just about counting calories. It was eye-opening, though, to see what some portion sizes are. That along with having to be careful of how much fiber I’m taking in have helped me with listening to my body more since I can’t just eat whatever I want without repercussions. It’s also good for me because I do need to eat more protein and except for beans protein is lower fiber.
– Included EVERYTHING you possibly can in a food log.
– Don’t assume tummy trouble is linked to a certain food or food group. It may be too much of a certain vitamin, macro, or something like fiber. I was so focused on the details I couldn’t see the big picture.
– Fruit and vegetables with just 1 gram of fiber per serving can really add up (anything with just 1 gram can!) – and most produce has more than 1 gram per serving. We eat lots of peeled cucumber and peeled zucchini now. 😉

Some resources I’m linking to as a way for me to save them – before we figured out it was just fiber in general I was considering the low FODMAP diet, and these are some helpful links I found:
properly introducing new foods
FODMAP free foods
FODMAP food list
Adding flavor without FODMAPs
some low FODMAP recipes
some more recipes

Behold Your God

I had heard about John Snyder’s study, “Behold Your God: Rethinking God Biblically,” off and on over the last few years, and it sounded like something that would be good to do someday. As I struggled through PPD, I kept thinking about the study – I knew that like Elijah, what I needed in the midst of depression was to behold God. But most days I felt powerless to get there myself (theological clarification: coming to God ourselves is impossible without Christ’s atonement and the work of the Holy Spirit. What I mean here is that even as a redeemed child of God the depression created a barrier that I often could not get around to pray or read scripture).

I started the course in February and finished it in June, sometimes pausing to spend longer on a section or do something else for a week or two as various things came up that I had to work through. I really do think having a daily study where someone walked me through passages of scripture and asked questions for me was an important factor in healing PPD, even as I used more physical helps as well. There were truths about God I had doubted and having His character put before me day after day was crucial to rebuilding that trust.

Behold Your God helped me get around that barrier depression had put up, and not only that, by the end of it I was in a healthier place spiritually than I had been for over a year – there was a lot I hadn’t realized before doing the study, and also a lot I hadn’t realized before we slowed down as we got settled into our home here. There was a lot that I had been ignoring in Japan, much of it without knowing I was doing so. That was the short-term effect.

Longer-term, it changed the way I come to scripture. To first ask, “What does this passage tell me of God?” and not even asking how it should apply to me (even in what it says about Him applying to me) until I have seen and worshiped Him. I realized in the midst of postpartum depression how much my love for Him was based on what I felt He was doing for me in that moment instead of in His unchanging character, and thus learning to worship God for who He is outside of what He does in my life was important (not that worshiping Him for what He does for us is wrong! That is all over scripture. But He is so much more than that!).

I waited to write this until I had had some time to see what the longer-term effects of the study would be, and though only time will tell how long-term those will be, that’s some of how the study was beneficial for me. I will probably refer back to it often, and we would love to do it with a group sometime, too.
You can buy the whole DVD set here or do the course online here.

Have you done the Behold Your God study? What were some of the ways it impacted you?

July

July (and the first part of August!) was a little bit crazy! We spent some time in central WA with Ezra’s extended family and after 10 days at home set off for 3 weeks traveling. Crazy moments, but also lots of restful downtime.

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picking wild huckleberries! We ended up with almost a quart.

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avoiding the laundry by turning the huckleberries into compote, crisp, and scones before they went bad.

My mom was able to come for a few days and that really helped us get ready to travel!

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the first stop on our long trip was Seaside, OR for a few days with Ezra’s friends from school.

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In true toddler fashion, she balked at the idea of sand but then didn’t want to leave the beach.

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Huge crabs! And a crab graveyard…
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Hiking in Tillamook, followed by…
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ICE CREAM! We went to the Tillamook Factory’s temporary visitor’s center for ice cream, cheese samples, and a yummy burger. We asked S what flavor she wanted and she said “pink.” It was her first time having ice cream that was all her own.

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Then it was off to the East Coast! And they served stroopwaffles on United!

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Stopped in at Csehy for a few days. People kept saying Candace and I looked like twins so we swapped glasses. 😉

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I really can’t describe what it was like to be at Csehy with the girls and Ezra, to share my second family with them and introduce them to some of my favorite people and the community that changed me so much. Csehy has changed so much since it’s made up of people and I hardly know any campers and many of my close friends and I haven’t been in as close of contact as we would like. But what never changes is that Christ is first, excellence in music is sought after, and everyone is welcomed and loved.

Singing It is Well With my Soul and the benediction at singtime caused me to think about all that’s happened since I was last at Csehy 3 years ago, and how amazing it is after all that that I can say it is well with my soul, only because in the end, God is there.
And the Benediction always fills me with such peace and stillness, and to sing it in a circle with Ezra, S, and Ellie next to me was about as close to perfection as you can get on earth.

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And I took them all to Moss Lake!

After the concert we headed South, stayed the night in a random hotel, and then the next day drove into NYC to visit Cait.
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Trips to NYC are not complete without traffic.

Hymns of the month// was supposed to be reviewing hymns and brushing up on Abide with Me but really didn’t do much of either.

favorite recipes// Indian Omelet // healthy berry “cobbler” (not really a cobbler topping, more like crisp) // blueberry compote (used 1/2 huckleberries) // banana ice cream snickers bars // salmon quiche (used regular milk) // lentil & Israeli couscous salad (added walnuts, lemon juice, cilantro) // enfrijoladas // chilled mint yogurt soup // zucchini tomato soup (added some chicken & wild rice to make it a main) //

best of online//  Japanese exceptionalism // stretchy car seat cover/nursing cover tutorial // soul care for exhausted young mothers (in which John Piper advocates babywearing) // some good thoughts on reconciliation // music as story (podcast) // when mommy loves Jesus more // loved this message series from Csehy // why mosquitoes bites some people more than others // goodwill date night idea // in case you ever wondered what classical musician humor is like //

reading of late// Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full (Furman) // Son of Hamas // The Unhurried Homeschooler // Why the Universe is the Way it Is (Ross) // The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Carson) // skimmed Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma

thinking about//another corner turned in PPD – I have more focus/am less scatterbrained, am handling stress better, and am more motivated to do things like dishes -and am starting to enjoy having 2 kids, a point I had begun to think would never come. Even still, trying to figure out what it means for PPD to be “over”// looking to NOW not past or future, looking at God and not the waves // loving others > having a plan/completing a to-do list // staying out of any planning on a vacation is hard but also so nice to just go along with the flow and not have a list //

what brings joy// donating milk // hammock naps with Ellie // river white noise // “slow food” – leisurely peeling heads of garlic outside in conversation // the Psalms

The Munchkins// Ellie painlessly sprouted 3 teeth in a week, S adored meeting all “the friends,” both are fantastic travelers.